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Unidentified photographer (Chinese)
Chinese detention center photograph of evidence, fabricated guns
[Beijing Silvermine, Detention - 17 18 19]
Photograph, from found negative
Private collection of Thomas Sauvin
The series 17 18 19 is drawn from a bag of negative film salvaged from a recycling plant on the outskirts of Beijing in 2010. The bag contained an archive of over 15,000 scratched black and white negatives, shot at one of the city’s detention centers between 1991 and 1993. Pocket knives, screwdrivers, shovels, stolen cash, clothing, jewelry and home electronics are placed before the camera ; the photographs clearly present evidence and mugshots of the accused, but they are entirely cut off from any further information. They have survived only as inverted images, trapped on film.
Presented here in their original form as negatives, the camera behaves as an X-ray machine the objects glow in a grey void, creating daunting still lifes of an unexpected kind. Unsettling and beautiful in equal measure, every item these people have left behind, whether a weapon or an object of desire, is preserved like an artifact, a fossil for our examination. The evidence if often displayed alongside a referential three-centimeter ruler where the numbers 17, 18, and 19 appear.
Albeit utilitatian in function and form, the negatives, objects of the passage of time, distance us from the unidentified hors-champ events to which they bear witness. Slowly, compassion, emerging from personal memory, can begin to replace judgment.
Thomas Sauvin & Holly Roussell, 2019, 17 18 19, (Istanbul: VOID)
Beijing Silvermine - Additional details
(Accessed: 12 October 2020)